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As our stash of UK-brewed saisons runs low, it gets harder to find a connecting theme: what this last bunch have in common, at least according to their labels, is the absence of headlining (important word) herbs and spices.

All of this batch, as it happens, were provided to us free of charge by*online retailer Beer Hawk:

  • Wiper & True ‘The Breeze’ — 3.5% ABV, 500ml, usually £2.79.
  • Otley Saison Obscura — 5.5%, 500ml, usually £2.79.
  • Bad Seed Saison — 6%, 330ml, usually £2.59.

We first encounted ‘nomadic’ brewers*Wiper & True*not long after they had started up in 2012 when Bailey’s brother picked up a gift set of their beers.*We’ve tried various of their brews*since and haven’t quite been convinced, though we’ve found them*far better on draught in Bristol than in bottles at home.*This one-off saison is part of a series and has an admirably detailed label which looks as if it ought to be attached to a clipboard in a hospital, providing information on*hop varieties, malts and even which yeast strain has been used — ‘House saison blend’.
It hissed pleasingly on having its cap popped, and poured with a modest*head of solid foam over*clear gold. The aroma was familiar and tantalising — like Saison Dupont but overlaid with a smack of ripe banana. The first sip was rather startling revealing a high-pitched top note of acidity like you (well, we) might find in two-year-old homebrew. As you might expect at this strength, it is light-bodied to the point of wateriness, with a foamy, soapy quality in the mouth. We picked up some suggestions of sweet orange and lemon, along with something like fresh green herbs, or even salad leaves, but there wasn’t nearly enough of this to get us excited.
All in all, we found it simultaneously too raw and too restrained in flavour for our tastes, but we can imagine it working better chilled right down and swigged heartily on a hot day after a few hours of physical labour. It’s not a contender for our list of recommendations but if you’re into the rustic*end of British craft beer,*you might like it*more than we did.
Otley Saison Obscura*from Pontypridd, Wales, is not gimmick free, and we felt daft for not picking up the hint from the Latin in the name: it is not sunny coloured but a dark ruddy brown.
The carbonation was extremely high but the beer was not at all fizzy, giving it a Duvel-like ice-cream whip appearance in the glass. The aroma seemed, at first, downright nasty — stingingly medicinal and peaty — but that passed after a moment as the evil wafted away leaving behing banana and cloves. The taste didn’t make us say ‘Wow!’ (remember that test?) but it did prompt some appreciative non-verbals. There’s quite a bit going on, as if multiple styles — saison, Dunkelweiss, mild, stout — have been thrown together in a cauldron. Our notebook lists condensed milk, toffee, coffee, orange oil, and then says, ‘Like eating a Rose’s orange creme and a coffee creme at the same time.’ With some mouthfuls, this seemed fun; with others, more like a clash. And then, the more we drank, the more we noticed another less welcome strand of charcoal, meat and Marmite.
All in all, this is another beer which lacks finesse: we’d like it, frankly, to be a little more ‘industrial’ and a bit less ‘craft’. But it’s also kind of moreish, and certainly provided an interesting work out for our tastebuds.*On balance,*it’s not a contender*— we can’t give it a glowing recommendation — but we’d drink it again, maybe in a few month’s time.
Unfortunately,*we did not like*Bad Seed Saison one bit. It looked pretty in the glass, pouring perfectly clear and*white-gold, but the aroma stopped us in our tracks: it smelled like Lockets throat sweets, with a foliage note reminiscent of cedar moth-balls, or perhaps woody old thyme. The defining character of the taste was*an overwhelming sweetness as if it had not finished fermenting, or had been laced with pure honey. A quick look at their website revealed that, yes,*though it isn’t*mentioned on the packaging, honey is indeed*added for a ‘modern twist’, along with fresh root ginger — the cause of that woodiness? We pushed on but, in the end, had to abandon ship, so it’s*definitely not a contender.
We’re over halfway through this exercise and, pausing to reflect, we note that we haven’t fallen in love with any of the beers we’ve tasted in the last few weeks. The front-runner right now is BrewDog’s Electric India, purely because it lacked the rough-edges which have had us hemming-and-hawing over so many others. We’ll have to recalibrate with some Belgian classics before the final taste-off in a couple of weeks.Next time: saisons with Brett.
Saisons Pt 6: Relatively Twist Free from Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog - Over-thinking beer, pubs and the meaning of craft since 2007